My Fave Books This Year and a GIVEAWAY

TODAY’S BREW: Not quite peppermint mocha time yet

By Julie 

Let’s talk books. Because the world is terrible maybe, and let’s just talk books, okay? Okay! Here are some of my recent favorites that you guys should read. Click on the titles to get them on Amazon.

  • HOUSE OF ASH by Hope Cook. This is just a good old fashioned haunted house story, but it’s more than that. In dual points of view, present day and Victorian, with two characters that you really understand and root for, it’s got some great family dynamics (that are actually pretty horrible for them, but great reading), and a lot of eerie tonality that I appreciate.
  • DEAD GIRLS OF HYSTERIA HALL by Katie Alender. A really unique ghost story, with a super unique point of view (I won’t give it away), and cool ghosts. Along with mystery and even a ghostly love interest, which I was on board for.
  • BAD GIRLS DON’T DIE also by Katie Alender. I read this first and immediately bought DEAD GIRLS, I was so in love with the story. A haunted house and haunted girls and haunted relationship and haunted history…. And the characters, just like in DEAD GIRLS, are dynamic. These books aren’t just fluffy scary stories with a teen twist. They have great depth. You can bet I’ll be reading everything Katie writes.
  • NEVERNIGHT by Jay Kristoff. My favorite book of the year. Gruesome, heart-wrenching, mysterious, enticing, disgusting, horrifying, indulgent and sexy. This book has it all. Mia is a force to be reckoned with on the page, and the characters she surrounds herself with, the circumstances she puts herself in, are all so riveting and multi-tiered, I couldn’t stop turning pages. I got the limited edition sequel on release day–it was written in my planner–and I’m waiting to read it for exactly the right moment. Like, I don’t want anything to touch this experience for me. Go read The Nevernight Chronicles. Then tell Jay Kristoff to be my friend. I don’t understand why he isn’t my friend. I need him.
  • DEATH TROOPERS by Joe Schreiber. I’m picky as hell about books in the Star Wars universe. Can’t tell you how many I haven’t finished. I need my Star Wars books to read like the movies. This is why I love Chuck Wendig’s AFTERMATH. Not only because I’m mentioned in the acknowledgements, basically making me a sith, but because it reads in short, candid sections, just like you’re watching the movies, where you pan out to another point of view, leaving you thinking about the former, but anxious to learn more. So get the Wendig’s Star Wars books. But DEATH TROOPERS is different. Still reads quickly, as I want it to, but this is a mix of Star Wars universe and zombies. I don’t need to say more than that, you just go get it now.
  • HUNGRY GHOSTS by Stephen Blackmoore. I love the Eric Carter series, because necromancy, and he’s so sharp, and I need that, but this is my favorite one so far. Blackmoore treats Santa Muerte in a way I’ve never seen before, and the Aztec King of the Dead is badass. But Eric is the best badass of all. I love an antihero, and Carter is class act in this sense–noble purpose, destroying his sister’s murderers, but  man alive, does Eric Carter do some dirty deeds along the way. HUNGRY GHOSTS has a couple of my favorite scenes in this series in it, and I anticipate reading it again. Reminiscent of Simon R. Green (who some would say is reminiscent of Jim Butcher, but Simon R. Green is BETTER, JUST BETTER, FIGHT ME), the Eric Carter books do antiheroes RIGHT.
  • THE CAVENDISH HOME FOR BOYS AND GIRLS by Claire Legrand. I read this with my 10 year old, who loves Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events deeply, and never found anything quite that creepy with quite that much depth since. This book did it. I found myself thinking of CORALINE quite a few times too, that sinister side of middle grade that I find alluring. I’m a huge Legrand fan, and can never get enough of WINTERSPELL, which you should also read.

Okay! I think I’ve rattled on enough and I beg you to go read and review one or more of these books. COME TO THINK OF IT….

READ AND REVIEW ONE OR MORE OF THESE BOOKS, LINK IT TO ME, AND I WILL GIVE AWAY KINDLE VERSIONS OF THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS TO THE FIRST 5 OF YOU. OKAY GO. 

THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS & Julie’s Loud Mouth

TODAY’S BREW: Cider! It’s Halloween weekend and New England Wildlife Center’s Night of a Thousand Faces.

By Julie 

HI EVERYBODY. I promise I won’t get over-emotional. *bursts into tears, kicks a pumpkin down the street, climbs a tree*

THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS is finally out in the world, and it’s everything I dreamed it would be. LOOK.

Sixteen-year-old Celeste is the Witch of Stars and leader of her coven, the Five Poisons. But Celeste feels her greatest powers are in chewing anxiety pills and stress-eating. Uniting the vicious witches who share nothing but their unique forms of magic and a list of family dysfunctions is fruitless. The Poisons see only weakness in Celeste, for stifling her magic upon her mommy’s request. Using magic drains their mothers, the Elementals, but Celeste is the only one of the Poisons who doesn’t want her mother dead.
When a demon breaks through The Chains, the magical veil into the human world, Celeste tries proving herself to her coven by confronting him on her own. Through his eyes she discovers that the Elementals have been feeding the Poisons lies about demons, magic, their heritage, and the coven’s purpose. Worse yet, the abuse, manipulation and oppression Celeste’s coven has suffered at their mothers’ hands was more than tough love; it was to strengthen the girls’ powers for a Halloween harvest, to weave their souls into The Chains that they serve.
Celeste will do anything to save the Poisons, from traversing the wicked realm of The Gone, following the demon who’s shown her the truth, to waging war upon the Elementals. But to end the grisly cycle the Elementals have created means the Witch of Stars must either show her mother mercy and live in the false world she knows, or sacrifice herself in ways no magic can reverse.

A deadly concoction for readers of Leigh Bardugo and Maggie Stiefvater, with ingredients of American Horror Story: Coven, and The Craft.

This book was my first venture into young adult writing, and it was the most natural thing in the world to me. Funny thing is it’s edgier than RUNNING HOME and the whole Shinigami series. Teenagers get a bad rap for having little depth I think, and it’s simply not true. The Five Poisons live with different varieties of abuse, drugs, drinking, slut-shaming, emotional blackmail, anxiety, stress-eating even…. And yes, they swear, and there’s sex, and guess what? This is real life.

And on Amazon, I listed it as a book suitable for 7th grade and above.

Yes, I’m a dedicated and very involved mother of two young boys, and I protect them and nurture them to possibly an overbearing degree, but it would be foolish of me to assume they don’t see the growing-up coming, even at their tender ages. Angst isn’t the only thing they know. Teenagers and pre-teens should be acknowledged as children capable of making decisions and living their lives under guidance beyond whether their homework gets done on time. We’d be fools to assume they aren’t far more advanced and exposed to and curious about much more than their parents were at their ages. I was an….adventurous…young lady, and I’m pretty scared about what kids these days are in the path of. Technology has made all the rebellion we lived as kids into something far more dangerous. (There’s hardly any technology-based stuff in this book, because of the nature of what it’s really about, which has nothing to do with social interaction in that way.) Do we seriously think swearing is beyond them at say, even age 10? Not to mention that we let them play video games, watch YouTube, see endless violence (in a world full of it, naturally), and yet we change the channel when there’s a sex scene on TV. Who are we really shielding?

This went far more on a tangent than I thought it would. Which should show you how much I FELT this book, this series to come (one of which is finished already), and how important I think it is for kids to read.  While it isn’t an “IMPORTANT” book, immersed in any one of a hundred thousand million causes, it’s important. I stand by that. It puts important feelings, issues, experiences in a book that’s FUN. Because this book is fun, as emotional as I find it to be, and as imaginative as it needs to be.

Reading is as much an expression as writing is. It helps us identify with our own feelings, helps shape us throughout our entire lives. And kids should read what the hell they want.

I say this knowing that more adults read YA than teenagers probably do, and are looked down upon for it.

*stands on soapbox, throws air punches*

READ WHAT THE HELL YOU LIKE. READ BIOGRAPHIES OF CATTLE FARMERS, LORD OF THE RINGS MEETS GODZILLA, FIFTY SHADES OF CRAY CRAY, WHATEVER YOU WANT.

Reading inspires imagination, and without imagination, you cannot do a goddamn thing worthwhile. I don’t give a crap if you’re an accountant–if you can’t think outside the box, and don’t actively do so, your life is not what it could be. And if you’re an adult who reads a lot of young adult novels, I ask the world this:

WHAT IS ADULT LITERATURE LACKING FOR THESE READERS?

For me, imagination. Optimism. Reality. Freshness.

If adults had had more young adult available to them in this more mature strain as kids, rather than pretty exclusively SWEET VALLEY HIGH, what maturity level would we have had? What about those of us who read those books but also read Dracula and VC Andrews, and horror, and Jackie Collins, and Mary Higgins Clark?

Just me then? Oh.

There’s more than one level of emotional need at every age, and we’re capable of holding ALL OF THEM AT ONCE. And we should.

I’m super super super proud that a 10 year old boy at my kids’ school came up to me on the playground a couple of weeks ago. “I read your book, and it was awesome,” he said, about RUNNING HOME, a book about a 26 year old woman. Kids can read above grade level. As a matter of fact, the way they get there is by READING ABOVE GRADE LEVEL. That’s a whole other post.

Anyhoo, I’m incredibly passionate about this book, and I hope one or more of these characters will resonate with readers, and that they all walk away thinking a little differently because of them. So do yourself a favor, buy a book, and make it this one because the Poisons were all born on Halloween and it leads up to Halloween and IT’S HALLOWEEN.

For some visuals, go through the hundred Pinterest boards about the book and the witches and demons in it. Pinterest

The How and Why of Being Important

TODAY’S BREW: National Coffee Day doesn’t end for me.

By Julie 

I’m excited–unreasonably excited–about my next book release. I admit this. It’s coming on Halloween.

But people in Puerto Rico have no water. And Trump is inhuman, and people are suffering, people we can help, yet all he does is insult them and leave them to die.

My book isn’t important the way that is important. It’s important that I write, words create a better world, a more intelligent world, a more caring world, but right now? Getting glittery bookmarks isn’t important. Puerto Rico is important. Don’t get me wrong, what’s happening in all of our lives is important, and disaster elsewhere does not make our own issues disappear, but it’s a different kind of important. My stuff goes to the backburner in this political, this human condition. I think we all feel that way to a degree. WHY THE HELL ARE YOU BITCHING ABOUT WHAT KIND OF JUICE YOU WANT WHEN IN PUERTO RICO THEY HAVE NO FUCKING JUICE NOW DRINK THIS GODDAMN CAPRI SUN AND BE THANKFUL. Right? The natural feeling that our joys and our pains are important gets in a bar brawl with the knowledge of how horrible other people have it right now, at this very minute. Leaves us with a lack of focus, doesn’t it? This feeling that nothing matters sometimes, but then that everything matters because we can only control what we can control and this all ends. That thankfulness for what’s good in life has to drive us in times of crisis. And gratitude for the time and the privileges we have somehow helps those who are suffering so.

It is a lack of focus. It is. It’s a mess, a tornado of anger and guilt and gratitude that we all feel, that brings us all together. At least those of us with HUMAN HEARTS and normal hair.

I’m here to say that your stuff IS IMPORTANT. Yes, Puerto Rico is experiencing something that we are just fucking lucky to not know, and it’s happening every minute, real time, while we complain that we have to get up to do laundry or make an appointment. Your stuff is still important, too. Life as you know it is important. Your laundry, your appointments, your feelings, your exhaustion and your happiness and the things you look forward to.

I look forward to a lot this time of year. Halloween soothes me, all of the Halloween everything. The decorations, the music, the air, the colors, the apple picking, the pumpkins, the movies, Halloween Wars on the Food Network, the Spooktacular at the zoo we go to every year…. This is the stuff I live for. And to have a book coming out, one that is so close to my heart, THE WIND BETWEEN WORLDS, makes it all even better. I can’t stop thinking about it, wanting to do more for it. That’s okay. I should be excited. I won’t feel guilty about telling my happy news in a timeline full of crippling news retweets and shares. I have to do what I can do in my world to make my world better.

I spent last week every day running my kids’ school’s Scholastic Book Fair. I do this a few times a year, and I throw myself into it like a lunatic. I do everything humanly possible to make sure every child gets the book they want, no matter what their financial situation is. There’s nothing more important than that to me, to give these kids OPPORTUNITY. To show them that reading what they like is important. To give them choices. And when they see my paperbacks in a stack next to me, they just light up, it’s amazing to watch. These kids have hopes and dreams and you know what? Me showing how important reading and writing is to these kids is what will make future generations more understanding than the Trumpies. This is how I can matter. So I run with it. I run a writing club/class for a month or so every year at the school, and I talk to any class that wants me about writing, and I help the kids who need it with putting their words to paper and feeling okay about it not being perfect, because words can change everything. Maybe not this second, but sometimes this second. I was able to give one little girl a pricey craft kit from the book fair, a crocheting thing or something, I don’t know, I just write books, but the next day I saw her 3 times walking around with the pillow she was making, carrying the book and the materials under her arm.

I gave her that kit, one she wouldn’t have had otherwise, and maybe it sparked something in her. Maybe this is something she’s passionate about. And I helped. It MATTERS.

So remember that the things you do make a difference. The smile you give at the grocery store, the way you brush off the anger when someone cuts you off, the kind word you give to someone who needs it, this stuff creates a world one piece at a time. Hopefully a world where people help each other without expecting anything back, and where everyone shares the same concerns.

I also want to say that taking care of you matters too. If you need help, ask for it. If you feel hopeless, reach out. Know that your happiness matters to someone, that your life matters to someone. People feel beaten these days. Be the person who lifts others up when they need it, tell them how crucial they are to you. And these same people will be there for you when you feel beaten. Because that emotional storm of anger, guilt, helplessness? It comes back again and again. The confusion and disbelief has us all on a roller coaster. But you are no less important among the debris this storm is slinging than anyone else. Your life matters, your life is important, and we are all important together. Be passionate about your life, and it will inspire others to be the same. Together we can change so much if we believe in ourselves and each other first, and show that we SEE each other.

I know this has gone ranty, but for me, it makes sense. Be good to each other under the foot of a dirtbag overlord that doesn’t know how to care about anyone. It is what we do in the small moments that will create a strong environment, a brighter future. Be important.